Interpol: sextortion ring disbanded in Asia

Cybercriminals extorted at least $47,000 from the victims by threatening to expose their nudes to friends and relatives.

The cybercriminals contacted their victims, mainly based in Hong Kong and Singapore, through online sex and dating platforms before asking them to engage in "naked chats" via a hyperlink that contained a malicious mobile application.

Unsuspecting victims downloaded the app designed to steal their phones' contact lists – and were trapped. The criminals would then blackmail the victims, threatening to send their nudes to friends and relatives.

The ring managed to extract at least $47,000 from victims before the police uncovered and dismantled it, Interpol said. At least 34 sextortion cases were traced to the ring and 12 suspected "core members" of the syndicate were arrested.

"Having a criminal access the most intimate aspects of your life and using this information against you to extort enormous sums of cash is anyone's nightmare," Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol's executive director of police services, said.

He added: "The most frightening part is that anyone could fall victim to this type of crime."

The investigation was a joint effort between Interpol and police forces in Hong Kong and Singapore. Interpol says it has observed a "sharp rise" in sextortion reports globally in recent years, which, along with other cyber crimes, were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Sextortionists sometimes count on their victims feeling too much shame to go to the police, but reporting these crimes is often the first step to bringing these criminals to justice," Kavanagh said.

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